The Second Life Community Convention finished this afternoon at
5pm. I’m headed home with a bad full of tee-shirts, mugs, various Second Life
publications, a compass, screen cleaner, porn, and lots of fond
Today I continued my coverage of the non-profit / philanthropy thread,
which continued conversations that were begun in several panels
yesterday. I am starting to feel like a number of themes are emerging,
- Identity Transformation / Play
- Community Engagement
- Collaborative Narrative
- Addressing the Digital Divide(s)
More on the specific panels after the jump…
The morning kicked off with a great panel on Best Practices for Non-profits, facilitated by Pathfinder Linden. Pathfinder talked about how non-profits were a perfect fit for Second Life, since residents are already consumed with how to make their world a better place. It was a rich panel with great speakers including:
- Tori Horton and Anna Bertold of the Center for Public Diplomacy
- Adam Aberman of Oshoka Fund
- Glitteractica Cookie of Tech Soup
- Lori Bell of the Alliance Library System
- and Alex Struminger of UNICEF
There are interesting, innovative uses of Second Life for education, outreach, fundraising, activism and collaboration. Still, many of these groups are still very much in an exploratory, experimental phase of their work.
One repeated concern was to figure out how to leverage the strengths of SL — particularly as a tool for collaboration, non-geography-based network-building, and immersive learning.
Lori Bell of the Alliance Library System gave such a great presentation, I had to drop by her other talk on “Information-learning Communities” after lunch. She and other librarians talked about the amazing work they were doing to extend library services to Second Life, growing from a single parcel to over 100 sims on their Info Island archipelago! One of the librarians helps run the new Rennaissance Island, a sim build in the style of the Tudor-era in England. She clearly took her role to heart, giving her talk while wearing quite lovely period dress.
Finally, I went to the Philanthropy and Virtual Worlds panel toward the end of the day. Representatives of the MacArthur Foundation, the Microsoft Corporation, Learn & Serve America, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation spoke about the challenges funders face in trying to invest in this space. A repeated refrain was how to use investments in virtual world activities to spur real world change and impact. As Prokofy Neva said, non-profits in SL face the “right-click wall.” I.e. moving beyond simply getting avatars to “right-click Pay” or “right-click follow URL” to doing real world actions.
A representative of the group OneWorld.net reminded participants that while there are certainly important concerns in the United States that should be addressed, beyond the US there are serious Digital Divide issues that can not be ignored. Funders should find ways to support groups outside of the US that are connecting people to technological solutions. This got a heartfelt round of applause.
As the conference wound down at the final session, I thought about how remarkable it was the wide variety of actors this convention brought together. From furries and cosplayers to activists and educators to musicians and artists to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. SLCC is really just a slice through the various layers of society writ large, bent toward the geeky end.
The final session announced that the organizers of SLCC had gotten approval from Linden Labs to organize the next FIVE SLCCs. Clearly, they are planning for the future, which is likely to only be bigger and more challenging. Last year was about 500 participants, this year more than 800 attendees. It’s not hard to imagine next year’s SLCC drawing 2,000-5,000 residents to some massive venue.
“We’re just the first people at the party,” as Philip Linden says. I should start planning my outfit for next year’s masquerade ball. Man, would I love to be a steampunk dragon!